Here it is, Chapter the Last. I was thoroughly shocked by all the positive responses from chapter nine. Thanks! My faith in my own writing skills has been revived. You are a fabulous group of readers. Anyway, here's the end of Ginny's little tale. Enjoy!

Growing Up Weasley

Chapter 10. Knights and Maidens and Happily Ever After


Ginny waited. It was Harry's turn to talk, and she would wait until he did. They were stuck on the Express until they got close to Hogwarts, with no place to go. She could wait.

The compartment door banged open, and Seamus stuck his head in. Ginny glared daggers at him, and he had the good sense to look abashed. Still, he didn't leave. "Sorry. We're almost there. I reckon we should change into our robes." Ginny was still glaring. "My robes are in here," he explained.

Ginny shot a look at Harry, promising that they'd finish this later, then rolled her eyes at Seamus. With a heavy sigh, she got up and left the compartment. As the door closed, she heard Seamus say something about saving Harry's hide. It didn't take a genius to figure out what he meant. Fuming, Ginny stomped away.

Ivy caught her passing through a nearly-empty car. "Oh! I was just coming to find you and tell you we're almost there. If you want to put your robes on, I mean."

Ginny bit back her more violent emotions and smiled at her friend. "I was just coming back to do that." The two girls headed back to their compartment together, talking about the newest member of their circle. "You must tell me, Ivy. Do you think Maggie'll be in Gryffindor, too? She's loads of fun - a thousand times more than Colin or Dennis."

Ivy snickered and shushed her friend. "They could hear you!"

But Ginny didn't care. "Well, really. Isn't it about time the boys of Gryffindor got a good dose of honesty? I don't think it would harm them a bit." She scrunched up her nose in thought. "Might do them some good," she mused softly.

Ivy - who Ginny sometimes thought was an Animagus; she had ears like a bat - caught that. "Oh, Ginny. You didn't get to speak with Harry, did you?"

The last thing Ginny wanted was her friend's pity. "Seamus was in a hurry to change before we got to Hogwarts." She smiled brightly. "Don't worry, though. Harry and I will talk. I'm sure of it." She couldn't help but add, "And since this is the first year he's managed to get to Hogwarts without incident, I expect we'll talk sooner or later."

Ivy chuckled with her friend. Harry Potter's start-of-school exploits were already legendary. Something had happened to him every year, and neither girl could remember if he'd ever seen a Sorting Ceremony since his own. He certainly hadn't been at theirs. Ivy glanced out the train window as they entered their car, and gasped. "Gin?" She turned. "I think you spoke too soon." Ivy pointed at the reddish-orange blurs streaking through the Scottish countryside alongside the train.

Ginny's eyes grew large, and then narrowed. "Oh, for the love of -" She opted not to finish her expletive, instead throwing up her arms and stalking toward her compartment in high dudgeon. Ivy followed, but Ginny did not give voice to the thoughts racing through her mind. Thoughts like, What on earth were her idiot brothers up to now? That was a purely rhetorical question, of course. She knew.

Once, when she was very young, Bill and Charlie had teased her about fending off all the wizards who would chase after their baby sister someday. At the time, Ginny had found it all quite funny. "We'll follow him to school and haunt his steps," Charlie had promised. "We'll chase him down and demand to know if his intentions are honorable," Bill concurred. "We'll set dragons on him," Charlie said, revealing his lifelong obsession with the beasts. "Or lay a dozen hexes on him and see if he can get out of it," Bill added gleefully, calling on his already extensive knowledge of curses and curse-breaking from his work for Gringott's.

When she started at Hogwarts, Fred and George had gotten into the act, plotting a hundred tricks to play on any suitor Ginny ever had. By then, though, Ginny had ceased to see the humor in their extensive plans. And while she'd been grateful for the protection of four older brothers when a Slytherin tried to hit on her in second year, she did not appreciate the four Weasleys flying along on their brooms beside the Express. She just knew they were going to ambush Harry as soon as he stepped one foot off the train.

The worst of it was, there was nothing she could do. If she went back and tried to warn him now, Ron would probably join in on their brothers' side, against Harry, and unquestionably against Ginny. Nothing irritated her so much as the interference of six big brothers in her love life. She couldn't imagine what they would do at the Burrow if she started making eyes at Draco Malfoy.

Not that she ever would, of course. She wasn't terribly interested in the pale, blond, supercilious prince of Slytherin. And while she admitted to Ivy that he was good-looking, she couldn't understand what Ivy saw in him. Of course, Ivy always wanted what was out of her reach. That was why she and Ginny were such good friends.

And with that jumble of thoughts in her mind, Ginny burst into Compartment G-11 and flung herself on the bench with a heavy sigh of disgust. She crossed her arms and glanced out the window only to be met with the sight of Fred smiling and waving before he pressed on to catch up with her brothers. "ARGH!!!" she shouted, startling Maggie and Hermione and Ivy afresh.

"Something you'd like to share with the rest of the class, Gin?" Hermione asked with a twitch of a grin on her face. Ivy and Maggie giggled at the caricature of anger Ginny presented to her friends. Before Ginny could explain everything, though, Hermione went on. "Best change into your robes, girls. We'll arrive in about ten minutes."

Ginny closed her eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath. Then she stood up and reached for her case on the rack above Maggie's head. As she changed into her plain Hogwarts uniform and black robes with the Gryffindor crest, she muttered, "This is absolutely the last straw. I'm off men forever."

The others were wise enough to keep their comments to themselves.

In short order, the girls were changed, and a minute later the train stopped. Students poured off, laughing, talking, happy to be back at what was still the safest place in Britain with Voldemort on the loose. Ginny, too, was happy to be back. At least at Hogwarts she wasn't the only girl in the house. She waved good-bye to Hermione and Ivy, who were headed off to the rapid transit up to the castle - reserved especially for prefects. Then she gave Maggie Creevey a hug and promised to see her in the Great Hall. "Don't worry about the sorting," she whispered, remembering the horror stories she'd been told. "It's nothing." She shared a "Hullo" with Hagrid and noticed he was wearing that horrible hairy suit he'd worn to impress Madame Maxime from Beauxbatons a couple of years ago. She deduced that Hagrid's courtship had been successful. Then she headed for the carriages that would take the rest of the students up to the castle.

"Gin!" It was Harry. She steeled her nerves and walked toward him. They headed toward one of the few remaining carriages side by side, in awkward silence, until Harry finally broke it. "See Hagrid?" he asked. Ginny risked a sideways glance. Hagrid was a favorite of all the Gryffindors, but he was a particular friend of Harry. How was she to answer that seemingly inconsequential question?

But when she saw Harry's raised eyebrows, and the way he seemed to be forcing back a grin, she giggled. "Looks like Madame Maxime will be a new professor this year." They both burst out laughing - not at the expense of their enormous friend's romance, but at the sight of him in that hideous suit. "Harry, you have to tell him to get a new suit!"

"Where? I don't know if you've noticed, Ginny," he teased amiably, "but I hardly shop with giants."

She glanced over at him again. "Oh, I dunno," she said softly. Indeed, Harry looked far less malnourished than he had in previous years. Apparently, her mum's cooking had finally made a difference. Not to mention Harry was filling out quite nicely on his own. He was several inches taller than she was, finally. And his arms looked as if they could wrap right around her and hold her to him. And he had a broad chest, just right for curling up against. And...

Ginny cut off that train of thought before she started to blush. Still, the easy camaraderie between them was lost once more. Harry cleared his throat. "Ginny, I -"

"Harry! Ginny! What a surprise!"

Harry looked startled - and not a little nervous - at the sudden appearance of four Weasleys in the closed carriage he'd been about to hand Ginny into. Ginny, however, was not surprised. After all, her brothers were bent on utterly ruining her life. She was almost resigned to it. Almost.

"Really, George?" she challenged. "A surprise, you say?" Her dark and usually warm eyes were snapping with anger. Harry saw this and backed off. Her brothers, too, fell back into their seats as Ginny climbed into the carriage. "Funny, I'm not surprised." She sat back and spread her arms out as though offering herself up as a sacrifice. "Well? Let's have it. Go ahead." She turned her head and nodded for Harry to join them before he got left behind at the station. "Come on, Harry. The sooner we get this over with, the better. Bill? You're the oldest. Maybe you should get the ball rolling." The carriage began rolling toward the castle.

It didn't matter that Bill was ages older than Ginny. He wasn't stupid. Foolhardy, perhaps. But not stupid. He and all his brothers (excepting Percy, whose world seemed to end at the tip of his nose) knew that tone of voice. Hadn't they grown up hearing it from their mother before she let loose with a tirade? Only Ginny's style was a bit more vengeful. And Bill knew - they all knew - that Ginny had enough on them to get them all but disowned. Cross the baby of the Weasley family, and it would come back to haunt you at the worst of times - like in front of new girlfriends, or at Christmas dinner with the grandparents. Bill had made that mistake once before. So had Charlie. And the twins did it all the time. Ron had experienced Ginny's startling vengeance when she started kissing Harry. Only, Bill learned from his mistakes. He turned his attention to Harry. "Harry, man, we all know you. And it used to be we trusted you. But this is our baby sister we're talking about. So I must ask. What are your intentions?"

At that, Ginny coughed, sounding suspiciously amused. Honestly. If it wasn't so bloody irritating, the scene would be high comedy! What was Bill thinking, asking Harry his intentions? Was he expecting Harry to put his financial prospects down in writing? Perhaps announce his betrothal to Ginny as though she were a fair maiden of yore? Pledge his sword and all his men to the sacred duty of upholding the Weasley banner in exchange for Ginny's hand? Could her brothers possibly be any more courtly? Next thing she knew, one of them was going to lay down a cloak for her to walk over.

Harry glanced across the carriage and tried to catch her eye. Failing that in the dark interior, he faced Bill honestly. Ginny watched him covertly, thinking her brothers could learn a bit about real chivalry from Harry. If anything, he was too shy. That was certainly not a trait any of the Weasleys shared. "Well...I -" he stopped, looking Bill squarely in the eye. Ginny sat up a little, wondering what Harry would say next. "I intended to talk with Ginny first, Bill." His piercing green eyes met four pairs of Weasley eyes before turning to Ginny once more. This time she met his eye and held the gaze. "I can't stop thinking about you, Gin. Half of why I couldn't wait to get to the Burrow this summer was to see you again. And then there you were, and you're -" he choked a bit on the word (no doubt trying to speak past the aeons of male chauvanism that dictated a man must never tell a woman just how much he really does care for her) - "you're gorgeous. You are, Ginny. And you're the best damned Beater I've ever seen." Fred and George made noises of disbelief, but neither Harry nor Ginny paid them any attention. In fact, it was as though they were in the carriage alone. In a part of her mind, Ginny couldn't believe this conversation was finally happening - and under such circumstances! - but most of her mind was focused on Harry. "And I already know you're as smart as Hermione, at least, brilliant at potions. And you're great for a joke. You managed to keep my mind off Voldemort for the past two weeks. And you're so strong, and sweet, and courageous, and gentle, and - well, you're brilliant, Gin. I can't believe it took me so long to realize it. I -" he spared a glance for their audience, and Ginny thought she detected a bit of a shrug as Harry focused once more on her. "I'm in love with you, Ginny."

Her eyes fluttered shut. For the first time in her life, she wished she wasn't such a strong woman, that she really was from a different age. She swooned. "Harry," she breathed.

Charlie took half a second to register the scene before him, and then he cleared his throat. "Right. Well, we're - we'll just be going now. You might owl Mum, Gin. And," this to Harry, with a grin that stole over his boyish face and mirrored the ones his brothers wore, "you might want to break it to Ron gently, mate."

The carriage slowed, then stopped. Bill, Charlie, Fred and George departed in a flurry of broomsticks and tasteless jokes. Harry climbed out of the carriage, then put out his hand for Ginny. She took it and descended from the carriage on a cloud of pure emotion. Once she was safely out of the carriage, Harry did not let go her hand. Instead they stood there, alone for a short moment in front of the grand entrance to Hogwarts Castle, gazing at each other with the wonder of true love revealed.

"I meant it, you know," Harry said. "I do love you, Ginny."

She felt the blush that started with her ears and worked its way across all her features in an instant. But she would not be embarrassed. She smiled up at the green-eyed young hero of the wizarding world, felt the strength of his hand warm around hers, and allowed a lifetime of emotions to well up inside her. "And I love you," she agreed. Then she joked, "Not like you couldn't guess it from the Valentines." He smiled. "You know," she went on, "'Eyes as green as a fresh-pickled toad'?" He chuckled a bit, and so did she.

And then, after years of dreams and two weeks of stolen practice, it was perfectly natural. The sun was setting in the background as they leaned toward each other, tilting their heads ever so slightly, and sealed their relationship for all time with the perfect kiss.


Fin




A/N: There you go! I hope you enjoyed this fanfic. I enjoyed writing it, anyway. And now, I fear, I am out of ideas for my next fic here. Actually, I'm writing some fanfiction on another site, but it's not Harry Potter. So. If you have any suggestions or ideas for what I should write here next, please feel free to share. You can e-mail me or leave your ideas in your review. Otherwise...well, we'll just have to wait and see, shall we?